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Shorter lines? Larger DMV planned for Hillcrest

Posted: 4:43 PM, Aug 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-08 01:41:46Z

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Bombarded with long lines and time delays, the state is planning to replace the Department of Motor Vehicles facility in Hillcrest with a larger facility. 

The state would tear down the current 14,319 square-foot DMV at 3960 Normal Street, and replace it with a one-story 18,540 square-foot building.  

The new DMV would accommodate the 931 customers that use it daily, with 141 parking spaces. It would cost $20.7 million. 

"The existing DMV Normal Street field office is not sized appropriately to accommodate the existing staffing and service demand levels needed at this location," the DMV said in an environmental notice. 

But the threat of shorter wait times is not being met with enthusiasm from some Hillcrest residents.

Mat Wahlstrom, a member of the Uptown Planning Group, sees the project as a missed opportunity. He pointed to a now-scrapped plan to add a mixed-use housing and retail project, plus a park. It would have a new, larger DMV on the south end the 2.5-acre site.

"This wouldn't be a deadzone every evening, which is what it's become," Wahlstrom said. "It was supposed to have been a dual use site."

Christina Valdivia, a DMV spokeswoman, says the mixed-use plan didn't work because it doesn't conform with its vehicle-centric business model.

Meanwhile, the Hillcrest Farmers Market is raising issue with the DMV's plan to add a 7-foot-tall wrought iron fence around the property. The market uses the DMV lots for parking and some of its vendors.

"It would really create this sort of fortress DMV that we are hostile to," said Ben Nichols, who heads the Hillcrest Business Association.

Valdivia says the DMV is installing fences at all of its new and replacement buildings to protect against vandalism, theft, damage, and even human waste. Nichols said it would just push those problems onto the public sidewalk.

Now, two state legislators, Sen. Toni Atkins, and Asm. Todd Gloria, are getting involved with the project. 

The plan is currently under environmental review. If all goes as planned, it would break ground in early 2020 and be complete by the first quarter of 2021.